Chapter 4

First manned space flight

View of the moon from Apollo 8.

[ 97 ] NASA’s first four manned spaceflight projects were Mercury, Gemini, Apollo, and Skylab. As the first U.S. manned spaceflight project, Project Mercury-which included two manned suborbital flights and four orbital flights-“fostered Project Apollo and fathered Project Gemini.” 1 The second manned spaceflight project initiated was the Apollo manned lunar exploration program. The national goal of a manned lunar landing in the 1960s was set forth by President John F. Kennedy 25 May 1961:

. . . I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goals, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to earth. No single space project in this period will be more impressive to mankind, or more important for the long-range exploration of space; and none will be so difficult or expensive to accomplish. But in a very real sense, it will not be one man going to the moon-if we make this judgment affirmatively, it will be an entire nation. 2

The interim Project Gemini, completed in 1966, was conducted to provide spaceflight experience, techniques, and training in preparation for the complexities of Apollo lunar-landing missions. Project Skylab was originality conceived as a program to use hardware developed for Project Apollo in related manned spaceflight missions; it evolved into the Orbital Workshop program with three record-breaking missions in 1973-1974 to man the laboratory in earth orbit, producing new data on the sun, earth resources, materials technology, and effects of space on man.

The Apollo-Soyuz Test Project was an icebreaking effort in international cooperation. The United States and the U.S.S.R. were to fly a joint mission in 1975 to test new systems that permitted their spacecraft to dock with each other in orbit, for space rescue or joint research.

As technology and experience broadened man’s ability to explore and use space, post-Apollo planning called for ways to make access to space more practical, more economical, nearer to routine. Early advanced studies grew into the Space Shuttle program. Development of the reusable space transportation system, to be used for most of the Nation’s manned and unmanned missions in the 1980s, became the major focus of NASA’s program for the 1970s. European nations cooperated by undertaking development of Spacelab, a pressurized, reusable laboratory to be flown in the Shuttle.

Apollo 11 command and service module being readied for transport to the Vehicle Assembly Building at Kennedy Space Center, in left photo. Apollo 11 Astronaut Edwin E. Aldrin, Jr., below, setting up an experiment on the moon next to the lunar module. Opposite: the Greek god Apollo (courtesy of George Washington University).

[ 99 ] APOLLO . In July 1960 NASA was preparing to implement its long-range plan beyond Project Mercury and to introduce a manned circumlunar mission project-then unnamed-at the NASA/Industry Program Plans Conference in Washington. Abe Silverstein, Director of Space Flight Development, proposed the name “Apollo” because it was the name of a god in ancient Greek mythology with attractive connotations and the precedent for naming manned spaceflight projects for mythological gods and heroes had been set with Mercury. 1 Apollo was god of archery, prophecy, poetry, and music, and most significantly he was god of the sun. In his horse-drawn golden chariot, Apollo pulled the sun in its course across the sky each day. 2 NASA approved the name and publicly announced “Project Apollo” at the July 28-29 conference. 3

Project Apollo took new form when the goal of a manned lunar landing was proposed to the Congress by President John F. Kennedy 25 May 1961 and was subsequently approved by the Congress. It was a program of three-man flights, leading to the landing of men on the moon. Rendezvous and docking in lunar orbit of Apollo spacecraft components were vital techniques for the intricate flight to and return from the moon.

The Apollo spacecraft consisted of the command module, serving as the crew’s quarters and flight control section; the service module, containing propulsion and spacecraft support systems; and the lunar module, carrying [ 100 ] two crewmen to the lunar surface, supporting them on the moon, and returning them to the command and service module in lunar orbit. Module designations came into use in 1962, when NASA made basic decisions on the flight mode (lunar orbit rendezvous), the boosters, and the spacecraft for Project Apollo. From that time until June 1966, the lunar module was called “lunar excursion module (LEM).” It was renamed by the NASA Project Designation Committee because the word “excursion” implied mobility on the moon and this vehicle did not have that capability. 4 The later Apollo flights, beginning with Apollo 15, carried the lunar roving vehicle (LRV), or “Rover,” to provide greater mobility for the astronauts while on the surface of the moon.

Beginning with the flight of Apollo 9, code names for both the command and service module (CSM) and lunar module (LM) were chosen by the astronauts who were to fly on each mission. The code names were: Apollo 9-“Gumdrop” (CSM), “Spider” (LM); Apollo 10-“Charlie Brown” (CSM), “Snoopy” (LM); Apollo 11-“Columbia” (CSM), “Eagle” (LM); Apollo 12-“Yankee Clipper” (CSM), “Intrepid” (LM); Apollo 13-“Odyssey” (CSM), “Aquarius” (LM); Apollo 14-“Kitty Hawk” (CSM), “Antares” (LM); Apollo 15-“Endeavour” (CSM), “Falcon” (LM); Apollo 16-“Casper” (CSM), “Orion” (LM); Apollo 17-“America” (CSM); “Challenger” (LM).

The formula for numbering Apollo missions was altered when the three astronauts scheduled for the first manned flight lost their lives in a flash fire during launch rehearsal 27 January 1967. In honor of Astronauts Virgil I. Grissom, Edward H. White II, and Roger B. Chaffee, the planned mission was given the name “Apollo l ” although it was not launched. Carrying the prelaunch designation AS-204 for the fourth launch in the Apollo Saturn IB series, the mission was officially recorded as “First manned Apollo Saturn flight-failed on ground test. “

Manned Spacecraft Center Deputy Director George M. Low had urged consideration of the request from the astronauts’ widows that the designation “Apollo l”-used by the astronauts publicly and included on their insignia-be retained. NASA Headquarters Office of Manned Space Flight therefore recommended the new numbering, and the NASA Project Designation Committee announced approval 3 April 1967.

The earlier, unmanned Apollo Saturn IB missions AS-201, AS-202, and AS-203 were not given “Apollo” flight numbers and no missions were named “Apollo 2” and “Apollo 3.” The next mission flown, the first Saturn V flight (AS-501, for Apollo Saturn V No. 1), skipped numbers.

Lunar Rover parked on the Moon during the Apollo 15 mission.

. 2 and 3 to become Apollo 4 after launch into orbit 9 November 1967. Subsequent flights continued the sequence through 17. 5

The Apollo program carried the first men beyond the earth’s field of gravity and around the moon on Apollo 8 in December 1968 and landed the first men on the moon in Apollo 11 on 20 July 1969. The program concluded with Apollo 17 in December 1972 after putting 27 men into lunar orbit and 12 of them on the surface of the moon. Data, photos, and lunar samples brought to earth- by the astronauts and data from experiments they left on the moon-still transmitting data in 1974-began to give a picture of the moon’s origin and nature, contributing to understanding of how the earth had evolved.

APOLLO-SOYUZ TEST PROJECT (ASTP) . The first international manned space project, the joint U.S.-U.S.S.R. rendezvous and docking mission took its name from the spacecraft to be used, the American Apollo and the Soviet Soyuz.

On 15 September 1969, two months after the Apollo 11 lunar landing mission, the President’s Space Task Group made its recommendations on the future U.S. space program. One objective was broad international.

The Apollo spacecraft approaches the Soyuz for docking in orbit, in the artist’s conception at top. Cosmonaut Aleksey A. Leonov and Astronaut Donald K. Slayton check out the docking module in a 1974 training session.

[ 103 ] . participation, and President Nixon included this goal in his March 1970 Space Policy Statement. The President earlier had approved NASA plans for increasing international cooperation in an informal meeting with Secretary of State William P. Rogers, Presidential Assistant for National Security Affairs Henry A. Kissinger, and NASA Administrator Thomas 0. Paine aboard Air Force One while flying to the July Apollo 11 splashdown. 1

The United States had invited the U.S.S.R. to participate in experiments and information exchange over the past years. Now Dr. Paine sent Soviet Academy of Sciences President Mstislav V. Keldysh a copy of the U.S. post-Apollo plans and suggested exploration of cooperative programs. In April 1970 Dr. Paine suggested, in an informal meeting with Academician Anatoly A. Blagonravov in New York, that the two nations cooperate on astronaut safety, including compatible docking equipment on space stations and shuttles to permit rescue operations in space emergencies. Further discussions led to a 28 October 1970 agreement on joint efforts to design compatible docking arrangements. Three working groups were set up. Agreements on further details were reached in Houston, Texas, 21-25 June 1971 and in Moscow 29 November-6 December 1971. NASA Deputy Administrator George M. Low and a delegation met with a Soviet delegation in Moscow 4-6 April 1972 to draw up a plan for docking a U.S. Apollo spacecraft with a Russian Soyuz in earth orbit in 1975. 2

Final official approval came in Moscow on 24 May 1972. U.S. President Nixon and U.S.S.R. Premier Aleksey N. Kosygin signed the Agreement Concerning Cooperation in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space for Peaceful Purposes, including development of compatible spacecraft docking systems to improve safety of manned space flight and to make joint scientific experiments possible. The first flight to test the systems was to be in 1975, with modified Apollo and Soyuz spacecraft. Beyond this mission, future manned spacecraft of the two nations would be able to dock with each other. 3

During work that followed, engineers at Manned Spacecraft Center (renamed Johnson Space Center in 1973) shortened the lengthy “joint rendezvous and docking mission” to “Rendock,” as a handy project name. But the NASA Project Designation Committee in June 1972 approved the official designation as “Apollo Soyuz Test Project (ASTP),” incorporating the names of the U.S. and U.S.S.R. spacecraft. The designation was sometimes written “Apollo/Soyuz Test Project,” but the form “Apollo Soyuz Test Project” was eventually adopted. NASA and the Soviet Academy of Sciences announced the official ASTP emblem in March 1974. The circular emblem displayed the English word “Apollo” and the Russian [ 104 ] word ” Soyuz” on either side of a center globe with a superimposed silhouette of the docked spacecraft. 4

Scheduled for July 1975, the first international manned space mission would carry out experiments with astronauts and cosmonauts working together, in addition to testing the new docking systems and procedures. A three-module, two-man Soviet Soyuz was to be launched from the U.S.S.R.’s Baykonur Cosmodrome near Tyuratam on 15 July. Some hours later the modified Apollo command and service module with added docking module and a three-man crew would lift off on the Apollo-Skylab Saturn IB launch vehicle from Kennedy Space Center, to link up with the Soyuz. The cylindrical docking module would serve as an airlock for transfer of crewmen between the different atmospheres of the two spacecraft. After two days of flying joined in orbit, with crews working together, the spacecraft would undock for separate activities before returning to the earth. 5

GEMINI . In 1961 planning was begun on an earth-orbital rendezvous program to follow the Mercury project and prepare for Apollo missions. The improved or “Advanced Mercury” concept was designated “Mercury Mark II” by Glenn F. Bailey, NASA Space Task Group Contracting Officer, and John Y. Brown of McDonnell Aircraft Corporation. 1 The two-man spacecraft was based on the one-man Mercury capsule, enlarged and made capable of longer flights. Its major purposes were to develop the technique of rendezvous in space with another spacecraft and to extend orbital flight time.

NASA Headquarters personnel were asked for proposals for an appropriate name for the project and, in a December 1961 speech at the Industrial College of the Armed Forces, Dr. Robert C. Seamans, Jr., then NASA Associate Administrator, described Mercury Mark II, adding an offer of a token reward to the person suggesting the name finally accepted. A member of the audience sent him the name “Gemini.” Meanwhile, Alex P. Nagy in NASA’s Office of Manned Space Flight also had proposed ” Gemini.” Dr. Seamans recognized both as authors of the name. 2

“Gemini,” meaning “twins” in Latin, was the name of the third constellation of the zodiac, made up of the twin stars Castor and Pollux. To Nagy it seemed an appropriate connotation for the two-man crew, a rendezvous mission, and the project’s relationship to Mercury. Another connotation of the mythological twins was that they were considered to be the patron gods of voyagers. 3 The nomination was selected from several made in NASA Headquarters, including “Diana,” “Valiant,” and “Orpheus”.

The Gemini 7 spacecraft was photographed from the window of Gemini 6 during rendezvous maneuvers 15 December 1965. Castor and Pollux, the Gemini of mythology, ride their horses through the sky (courtesy of the Library of Congress.)

. from the Office of Manned Space Flight. On 3 January 1962, NASA announced the Mercury Mark II project had been named “Gemini.” 4

After 12 missions-2 unmanned and 10 manned-Project Gemini ended 15 November 1966. Its achievements had included long-duration space flight, rendezvous and docking of two spacecraft in earth orbit, extravehicular activity, and precision-controlled reentry and landing of spacecraft.

The crew of the first manned Gemini mission, Astronauts Virgil I. Grissom and John W. Young, nicknamed their spacecraft “Molly Brown.” The name came from the musical comedy title, The Unsinkable Molly Brown, and was a facetious reference to the sinking of Grissom’s Mercury-[ 106 ] Redstone spacecraft after splashdown in the Atlantic Ocean 21 July 1961. “Molly Brown” was the last Gemini spacecraft with a nickname; after the Gemini 3 mission, NASA announced that “all Gemini flights should use as official spacecraft nomenclature a single easily remembered and pronounced name.” 5

Astronaut Edward H. White floats in space, secured to the Gemini 4 spacecraft.

MERCURY . Traditionally depicted wearing a winged cap and winged shoes, Mercury was the messenger of the gods in ancient Roman and (as Hermes) Greek mythology. 1 The symbolic associations of this name appealed to Abe Silverstein, NASA’s Director of Space Flight Development, who suggested it for the manned spaceflight project in the autumn of 1958. On 26 November 1958 Dr. T. Keith Glennan, NASA Administrator, and Dr. Hugh .

Full-scale mockups of the Mercury and Gemini spacecraft.

. L. Dryden, Deputy Administrator, agreed upon “Mercury,” and on 17 December 1958 Dr. Glennan announced the name for the first time. 2

On 9 April 1959 NASA announced selection of the seven men chosen to be the first U.S. space travelers, “astronauts.” The term followed the semantic tradition begun with “Argonauts,” the legendary Greeks who traveled far and wide in search of the Golden Fleece, and continued with “aeronauts”-pioneers of balloon flight. 3 Robert R. Gilruth, head of the Space Task Group, proposed “Project Astronaut” to NASA Headquarters, but the suggestion lost out in favor of Project Mercury “largely because it [Project Astronaut] might lead to overemphasis on the personality of the man.” 4

In Project Mercury the United States acquired its first experience in conducting manned space missions and its first scientific and engineering knowledge of man in space. After two suborbital and three orbital missions, Project Mercury ended with a fourth orbital space flight-a full-day mission by L. Gordon Cooper, Jr., 15-16 May 1963.

In each of Project Mercury’s manned space flights, the assigned astronaut chose a call sign for his spacecraft just before his mission. The choice of [ 108 ] “Freedom 7” by Alan B. Shepard, Jr., established the tradition of the numeral “7,” which came to be associated with the team of seven Mercury astronauts. When Shepard chose “Freedom 7,” the numeral seemed significant to him because it appeared that “capsule No. 7 on booster No. 7 should be the first combination of a series of at least seven flights to put Americans into space.” 5 The prime astronaut for the second manned flight, Virgil I. Grissom, named his spacecraft “Liberty Bell 7” because “the name was to Americans almost synonymous with ‘freedom’ and symbolical numerically of the continuous teamwork it represented.” 6

John Glenn, assigned to take the Nation’s first orbital flight, named his Mercury spacecraft “Friendship 7.” Scott Carpenter chose “Aurora 7,” he said, “because I think of Project Mercury and the open manner in which we are conducting it for the benefit of all as a light in the sky. Aurora also.

Astronaut John H. Glenn Jr., is hoisted out of the Friendship 7 spacecraft after splashdown in the Atlantic 20 February 1962. The god Mercury, poised for flight, at right (courtesy of the National Gallery of Art).

[ 109 ] . means dawn-in this case the dawn of a new age. The 7, of course, stands for the original seven astronauts.” 7 Walter M. Schirra selected “Sigma 7” for what was primarily an engineering flight-a mission to evaluate spacecraft systems; “sigma” is an engineering symbol for summation. In selecting “sigma,” Schirra also honored “the immensity of the engineering effort behind him.” 8 Cooper’s choice of “Faith 7” symbolized, in his words, “my trust in God, my country, and my teammates.” 9

SKYLAB . Planning for post-Apollo manned spaceflight missions evolved directly from the capability produced by the Apollo and Saturn technologies, and Project Skylab resulted from the combination of selected program objectives. In 1964, design and feasibility studies had been initiated for missions that could use modified Apollo hardware for a number of possible lunar and earth-orbital scientific and applications missions. The study concepts were variously known as “Extended Apollo (Apollo X)” and the “Apollo Extension System (AES).” 1 In 1965 the program was coordinated under the name “Apollo Applications Program (AAP)” and by 1966 had narrowed in scope to primarily an earth-orbital concept. 2

Projected AAP missions included the use of the Apollo Telescope Mount (ATM). In one plan it was to be launched separately and docked with an orbiting workshop in the “wet” workshop configuration. The wet workshop-using the spent S-IV B stage of the Saturn I launch vehicle as a workshop after purging it in orbit of excess fuel-was later dropped in favor of the ” dry” configuration using the Saturn V launch vehicle. The extra fuel carried by the S-IV B when used as a third stage on the Saturn V, for moon launches, would not be required for the Skylab mission, and the stage could be completely outfitted as a workshop before launch, including the ATM. 3

The name “Skylab,” a contraction connoting “laboratory in the sky,” was suggested by L/C Donald L. Steelman (USAF) while assigned to NASA. He later received a token reward for his suggestion. Although the name was proposed in mid-1968, NASA decided to postpone renaming the program because of budgetary considerations. “Skylab” was later referred to the NASA Project Designation Committee and was approved 17 February 1970. 4

Skylab 1 (SL-1), the Orbital Workshop with its Apollo Telescope Mount, was put into orbit 14 May 1973. Dynamic forces ripped off the meteoroid shield and one solar array wing during launch, endangering the entire program, but the three astronauts launched on Skylab 2 (SL-2)-the first manned mission to crew the Workshop-were able to repair the spacecraft and completed 28 days living and working in space before their safe return.

Skylab Orbital Workshop photographed from the Skylab 2 command module during fly-around inspection. The Workshop’s remaining solar array wing, after second wing was ripped off during launch, is deployed below the ATM’s four arrays. The emergency solar parasol erected by the astronauts is visible on the lower part of the spacecraft. The cutaway drawing shows crew quarters and work areas.

[ 111 ] They were followed by two more three-man crews during 1973 . The Skylab 3 crew spent 59 days in space and Skylab 4 spent 84. Each Skylab mission was the longest-duration manned space flight to that date, also setting distance in-orbit and extravehicular records. Skylab 4, the final mission (16 November 1973 to 8 February 1974) recorded the longest in-orbit EVA (7 hours 1 minute), the longest cumulative orbital EVA time for one mission (22 hours 21 min in four EVAs), and the longest distance in orbit for a manned mission (55.5 million kilometers).

The Skylab missions proved that man could live and work in space for extended periods; expanded solar astronomy beyond earth-based observations, collecting new data that could revise understanding of the sun and its effects on the earth; and returned much information from surveys of earth resources with new techniques. The deactivated Workshop remained in orbit; it might be visited by a future manned flight, but was not to be inhabited again.

SPACE SHUTTLE . The name ” Space Shuttle” evolved from descriptive references in the press, aerospace industry, and Government and gradually came into use as concepts of reusable space transportation developed. As early NASA advanced studies grew into a full program, the name came into official use. * 1

From its establishment in 1958, NASA studied aspects of reusable launch vehicles and spacecraft that could return to the earth. The predecessor National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics and then NASA cooperated with the Air Force in the X-15 rocket research aircraft program in the 1950s and 1960s and in the 1958-1963 Dyna-Soar (“Dynamic-Soaring”) hypersonic boost-glide vehicle program. Beginning in 1963, NASA joined the USAF in research toward the Aerospaceplane, a manned vehicle to go into orbit and return, taking off and landing horizontally. Joint flight tests in the 1950s and 1960s of wingless lifting bodies-the M2 series, HL-10, and eventually the X-24-tested principles for future spacecraft reentering the atmosphere.

Marshall Space Flight Center sponsored studies of recovery and reuse of the Saturn V launch vehicle. MSFC Director of Future Projects Heinz H. Koelle in 1962 projected a “commercial space line to earth orbit and the.

The Space Shuttle lifts off in the artist’s conception of missions of the 1980s, at left, with booster jettison and tank jettison following in sequence as the orbiter heads for orbit and its mission.

. moon,” for cargo transportation by 1980 or 1990. Leonard M. Tinnan of MSFC published a 1963 description of a winged, flyback Saturn V. 2 Other studies of “logistics spacecraft systems,” “orbital carrier vehicles,” and “reusable orbital transports” followed throughout the 1960s in NASA, the Department of Defense, and industry.

[ 113 ] As the Apollo program neared its goal, NASA’s space program objectives widened and the need for a fully reusable, economical space transportation system for both manned and unmanned missions became more urgent. In 1966 the NASA budget briefing outlined an FY 1967 program including advanced studies of “ferry and logistics vehicles.” The President’s Science Advisory Committee in February 1967 recommended studies of more economical ferry systems with total recovery and rescue possibilities. 3 Industry studies under NASA contracts 1969-1971 led to definition of a reusable Space Shuttle system and to a 1972 decision to develop the Shuttle.

The term “shuttle” crept into forecasts of space transportation at least as early as 1952. In a Collier’s article, Dr. Wernher von Braun, then Director of the U.S. Army Ordnance Guided Missiles Development Group, envisioned space stations supplied by rocket ships that would enter orbit and return to earth to land “like a normal airplane,” with small, rocket-powered “shuttle-craft,” or “space taxis,” to ferry men and materials between rocket ship and space station. 4

In October 1959 Lockheed Aircraft Corporation and Hughes Aircraft Company reported plans for a space ferry or “commuter express,” for ” shuttling” men and materials between earth and outer space. In December, Christian Science Monitor Correspondent Courtney Sheldon wrote of the future possibility of a “man-carrying space shuttle to the nearest planets.” 5

The term reappeared occasionally in studies through the early 1960s. A 1963 NASA contract to Douglas Aircraft Company was to produce a conceptual design for Philip Bono’s “Reusable Orbital Module Booster and Utility Shuttle (ROMBUS),” to orbit and return to touch down with legs [ 114 ] like the lunar landing module’s. Jettison of eight strap-on hydrogen tanks for recovery and reuse was part of the concept. 6 The press-in accounts of European discussions of Space Transporter proposals and in articles on the Aerospaceplane, NASA contract studies, USAF START reentry studies, and the joint lifting-body flights-referred to “shuttle” service, “reusable orbital shuttle transport,” and “space shuttle” forerunners. **

In 1965 Dr. Walter R. Dornberger, Vice President for Research of Textron Corporation’s Bell Aerosystems Company, published “Space Shuttle of the Future: The Aerospaceplane” in Bell’s periodical Rendezvous. In July Dr. Dornberger gave the main address in a University of Tennessee Space Institute short course: “The Recoverable, Reusable Space Shuttle.” 7

NASA used the term “shuttle” for its reusable transportation concept officially in 1968. Associate Administrator for Manned Space Flight George E. Mueller briefed the British Interplanetary Society in London in August with charts and drawings of “space shuttle” operations and concepts. In November, addressing the National Space Club in Washington, D.C., Dr. Mueller declared the next major thrust in space should be the space shuttle. 8 By 1969 “Space Shuttle” was the standard NASA designation, although some efforts were made to find another name as studies were pursued. 9 The “Space Shuttle” was given an agency-wide code number; the Space Shuttle Steering Group and Space Shuttle Task Group were established. In September the Space Task Group appointed by President Nixon to help define post-Apollo space objectives recommended the U.S. develop a reusable, economic space transportation system including a shuttle. And in October feasibility study results were presented at a Space Shuttle Conference in Washington. Intensive design, technology, and cost studies followed in 1970 and 1971. 10

[ 115 ] On 5 January 1972 President Nixon announced that the United States would develop the Space Shuttle.

The Space Shuttle would be a delta-winged aircraftlike orbiter about the size of a DC-9 aircraft, mounted at launch on a large, expendable liquid-propellant tank and two recoverable and reusable solid-propellant rocket boosters (SRBs) that would drop away in flight. The Shuttle’s cargo bay eventually would carry most of the Nation’s civilian and military payloads. Each Shuttle was to have a lifetime of 100 space missions, carrying up to 29 500 kilograms at a time. Sixty or seventy flights a year were expected in the 1980s.

Flown by a three-man crew, the Shuttle would carry satellites to orbit, repair them in orbit, and later return them to earth for refurbishment and reuse. It would also carry up to four scientists and engineers to work in a pressurized laboratory (see Spacelab) or technicians to service satellites. After a 7- to 30-day mission, the orbiter would return to earth and land like an aircraft, for preparation for the next flight.

At the end of 1974, parts were being fabricated, assembled, and tested for flight vehicles. Horizontal tests were to begin in 1977 and orbital tests in 1979. The first manned orbital flight was scheduled for March 1979 and the complete vehicle was to be operational in 1980.

SPACE TUG. Missions to orbits higher than 800 kilometers would require an additional propulsion stage for the Space Shuttle. A reusable “Space Tug” would fit into the cargo bay to deploy and retrieve payloads beyond the orbiter’s reach and to achieve earth-escape speeds for deep-space exploration. Under a NASA and Department of Defense agreement, the Air Force was to develop an interim version-the “interim upper stage (IUS),” named by the Air Force the “orbit-to-orbit stage (OOS),” to be available in 1980. NASA meanwhile continued planning and studies for a later full-capacity Space Tug. 11

Joseph E. McGolrick of the NASA Office of Launch Vehicles had used the term in a 1961 memorandum suggesting that, as capabilities and business in space increased, a need might arise for “a space tug-a space vehicle capable of orbital rendezvous and . . . of imparting velocities to other bodies in space.” He foresaw a number of uses for such a vehicle and suggested it be considered with other concepts for the period after 1970. McGolrick thought of the space tug as an all-purpose workhorse, like the small, powerful tugboats that moved huge ocean liners and other craft. The name was used frequently in studies and proposals through the years, and in September 1969 the Presidential Space Task Group’s recommendation for a [ 116 ] new space transportation system proposed development of a reusable, chemically propelled space tug, as well as a shuttle and a nuclear stage. 12

LARGE SPACE TELESCOPE. Among Shuttle payloads planned-besides Spacelab and satellites like those launched in the past by expendable boosters-was the Large Space Telescope (LST), to be delivered to orbit as an international facility for in-orbit research controlled by scientists on the ground. The LST would observe the solar system and far galaxies from above the earth’s atmosphere. On revisits, the Shuttle would service the orbiting telescope, exchange scientific hardware, and-several years later-return the LST to the earth.

LONG-DURATION EXPOSURE FACILITY. Another payload was to be placed in orbit for research into effects of exposure to space. The unmanned, free-flying Long-Duration Exposure Facility (LDEF) would expose a variety of passive experiments in orbit and would later be retrieved for refurbishment and reuse.

SPACELAB . A new venture in space flight made possible by the Space Shuttle, Spacelab was to be a reusable “space laboratory” in which scientists and engineers could work in earth orbit without spacesuits or extensive astronaut training. The program drew the United States and Europe into closer cooperation in space efforts.

The name finally chosen for the space laboratory was that used by the European developers. It followed several earlier names used as NASA’s program developed toward its 1980s operational goal. In 1971 NASA awarded a contract for preliminary design of “Research and Applications Modules” (RAMs) to fly on the Space Shuttle. A family of manned or “man-tended” payload carriers, the RAMs were to provide versatile laboratory facilities for research and applications work in earth orbit. Later modules were expected to be attached to space stations, in addition to the earlier versions operating attached to the Shuttle. The simplest RAM mode was called a “Sortie Can” at Marshall Space Flight Center. It was a low-cost simplified. pressurized laboratory to be carried on the Shuttle orbiter for short “sortie” missions into space. 1 In June 1971 the NASA Project Designation Committee redesignated the Sortie Can the “Sortie Lab,” as a more fitting name. 2

When the President’s Space Task Group had originally recommended development of the Space Shuttle in 1969, it had also recommended broad international participation in the space program, and greater international cooperation was one of President Nixon’s Space Policy Statement goals in March 1970. NASA Administrator Thomas 0. Paine visited European.

A Spacelab module and pallet fill the payload bay of a scale-model Space Shuttle orbiter. The laboratory module is nearest the cabin.

. capitals in October 1969 to explain Shuttle plans and invite European interest, and 43 European representatives attended a Shuttle Conference in Washington. One area of consideration for European effort was development of the Sortie Lab. 3

On 20 December 1972 a European Space Council ministerial meeting formally endorsed European Space Research Organization development of Sortie Lab. An intergovernmental agreement was signed 10 August 1973 and ESRO and NASA initialed a memorandum of understanding. The memorandum was signed 24 September 1973. Ten nations-Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France, West Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom-would develop and manufacture the units. The first unit was to be delivered to NASA free in the cooperative program, and NASA would buy additional units. NASA would fly Spacelab on the Shuttle in cooperative missions, in U.S. missions, and for other countries with costs reimbursed. 4

In its planning and studies, ESRO called the laboratory “Spacelab.” And when NASA and ESRO signed the September 1973 memorandum on cooperation NASA Administrator James C. Fletcher announced that NASA’s Sortie Lab program was officially renamed “Spacelab,” adopting the ESRO name. 5

[ 118 ] Spacelab was designed as a low-cost laboratory to be quickly available to users for a wide variety of orbital research and applications. Almost half the civilian Space Shuttle payloads were expected to fly in Spacelab in the 1980s. It was to consist of two elements, carried together or separately in the Shuttle orbiter: a pressurized laboratory, where scientists and engineers with only brief flight training could work in a normal environment, and an instrument platform, or “pallet,” to support telescopes, antennas, and other equipment exposed to space.

Reusable for 50 flights, the laboratory would remain in the Shuttle hold, or cargo bay, while in orbit, with the bay doors held open for experiments and observations in space. Seven-man missions, many of them joint missions with U.S. and European crew members, would include a three-man Shuttle crew and four men for Spacelab. Up to three men could work in the laboratory at one time, with missions lasting 7 to 30 days. At the end of each flight, the orbiter would make a runway landing and the laboratory would be removed and prepared for its next flight. Racks of experiments would be prepared in the home laboratories on the ground, ready for installation in Spacelab for flight and then removal on return. 6

One of the planned payloads was NASA’s AMPS (Atmospheric, Magnetospheric, and Plasmas-in-Space) laboratory, to be installed in Spacelab for missions in space. 7

At the end of 1974, life scientists, astronomers, atmospheric physicists, and materials scientists were defining experiment payloads for Spacelab. The first qualified flight unit was due for delivery in 1979 for 1980 flight. A European might be a member of the first flight crew. 8

* In January 1975, NASA’s Project Designation Committee was considering suggestions for a new name for the Space Shuttle, submitted by Headquarters and Center personnel and others at the request of Dr. George M. Low, NASA Deputy Administrator. Rockwell International Corporation, Shuttle prime contractor, was reported as referring to it as “Spaceplane.” (Bernie M. Taylor, Administrative Assistant to Assistant Administrator for Public Affairs, NASA, telephone interview, 12 Feb. 1975; and Aviation Week & Space Technology, 102 [20 January 1975], 10.)

** The Defense/Space Business Daily newsletter was persistent in referring to USAF and NASA reentry and lifting-body tests as “Space Shuttle” tests. Editor-in-Chief Norman L. Baker said the newsletter had first tried to reduce the name “Aerospaceplane” to “Spaceplane” for that project and had moved from that to “Space Shuttle” for reusable, back-and-forth space transport concepts as early as 1963. The name was suggested to him by the Washington, D.C., to New York airline shuttle flights. (Telephone interview, 22 April 1975.)

Application of the word “shuttle” to anything that moved quickly back and forth (from shuttlecock to shuttle train and the verb “to shuttle”) had arisen in the English language from the name of the weaving instrument that passed or “shot” the thread of the woof from one edge of the cloth to the other. The English word came from the Anglo-Saxon “scytel” for missile, related to the Danish “skyttel” for shuttle, the Old Norvegian “skutill” for harpoon, and the English “shoot.” (Webster’s International Dictionnary, ed.2 unabridged).

Humans in Space, National Air and Space Museum

Humans in Space

During the early years of the American and Soviet race into space, their competition was measured by headline-making “firsts”: the first satellite, first robotic spacecraft to the Moon, first man in space, first woman in space, and first spacewalk. To the dismay of the United States, the Soviet Union achieved each of these feats first. These events triggered a drive to catch up with—and surpass—the Soviets, especially in the high-profile endeavor of human space exploration.

The Mercury and Gemini programs were the early U.S. efforts in human spaceflight and they were spectacular successes:
May 1961: American astronaut Alan Shepard went briefly into space, but not into orbit, on the Mercury 3 mission
February 1962: Astronaut John Glenn spent five hours in orbit on the Mercury 6 mission
June 1965: Astronaut Edward White made the first U.S. spacewalk on the Gemini IV mission

Although the United States seemed to lag behind the U.S.S.R. in space, it pursued a methodical step-by-step program, in which each mission built upon and extended the previous ones. The Mercury and Gemini missions carefully prepared the way for the Apollo lunar missions.

After these first few missions that put Americans in space, America’s astronauts became the most visible symbols of space exploration. The public, newspapers, and television celebrated these young space pilots as national heroes, and their flights were widely heralded around the world.

Project Mercury

T. Keith Glennan approved Project Mercury in October 1958. The project was designed to put an astronaut into Earth orbit at the earliest date and test his ability to function in extreme acceleration (“g-forces”) and weightlessness. For many in the public, Congress, and NASA, these limited goals represented a first step in human exploration. Planning was already underway to evaluate more ambitious objectives, such as a space station or Moon landing.

The one-man Mercury missions developed hardware for safe spaceflight and return to Earth, and began to show how human beings would fare in space. From 1961 to 1963, the United States flew many test flights and six manned Mercury missions.

Six Mercury spacecraft were flown with astronauts aboard. The first two flights were suborbital and were boosted by Redstone launch vehicles. The last four were orbital flights and were boosted by Atlas rockets. The longest flight was 34 hours and 20 minutes.

Mercury Freedom 7

Astronaut Alan B. Shepard made the first U.S. piloted spaceflight in the Mercury Freedom 7 spacecraft on May 5, 1961. During this suborbital mission lasting 15 minutes and 22 seconds, Shepard reached an altitude of 186 kilometers (116 miles). The astronaut and his Mercury spacecraft were recovered 483 kilometers (302 miles) downrange from Cape Canaveral in the Atlantic Ocean by the USS Champlain.

Shepard was not the first human in space. Soviet cosmonaut Yuri A. Gagarin had orbited the Earth 23 days before Shepard’s flight, on April 12, 1961.

The Mercury spacecraft consists of a conical pressure section topped by a cylindrical recovery system section. The capsule’s frame is made of titanium, covered with steel and beryllium shingles. The base of the spacecraft is a beryllium heat sink, a technique for preventing the heat generated during reentry from harming an astronaut. Later flights used ablative heat shields, which protected the spacecraft by vaporizing and burning away during re-entry.

The Mercury spacecraft was equipped with three 454 kilogram (1000 pound) thrust solid-propellant retro-rockets mounted in a package on the heat shield. After the three rockets were fired to slow the spacecraft and allow it to drop to the Earth, the retro-rocket package was jettisoned.

Spacecraft Specifications

  • Crew: one astronaut
  • Maximum Diameter: 2.0 meters (6 feet 6 inches)
  • Length at launch: 2.8 meters (9 feet 2 inches)
  • Weight at launch: 1660 kilograms (3650 pounds)
  • Weight as exhibited: 1100 kilograms (2422 pounds)
  • Interior atmosphere: Pure oxygen at 264 millimeters of mercury (5.1 pounds per square inch)
  • Reaction Control System: 16 rockets producing from 0.45 kilograms (1 pound) to 10.9 kilograms (24 pounds) thrust, depending on location
  • Propellant for reaction control system: 90% hydrogen peroxide
  • Prime contractor: McDonnell Aircraft Corporation

Mercury-Redstone Launch Vehicle

Used for the suborbital space flights of astronauts Alan B. Shepard, Jr. (Freedom 7) and Virgil I. Grissom (Liberty Bell 7) during the Mercury Program. The Mercury-Redstone launch vehicle was developed from the U.S. Army’s Redstone missile.

Launch Vehicle Specifications

  • Height (with spacecraft): 25.4 meters (83.38 feet)
  • Thrust: 35,380 kilograms (78,000 pounds)
  • Propellants: Liquid Oxygen and Alcohol

Mercury Friendship 7

Astronaut John H. Glenn Jr. became the first American to orbit the Earth in the Friendship 7 Mercury spacecraft. On February 20, 1962, Glenn circled the Earth three times, in a flight lasting 4 hours and 55 minutes. Friendship 7 landed in the Atlantic Ocean.

Glenn’s flight followed two successful Soviet orbital flights and signaled that the United States could compete successfully in space. The high-profile drama of the space race and Glenn’s professionalism made him a national hero.

Spacecraft Specifications

  • Height: 2.7 m (9 ft)
  • Maximum Diameter: 1.9 m (6 ft 3 in)
  • Weight: 1,300 kg (2,900 lb)
  • Manufacturer: McDonnell Aircraft Corp. for NASA
  • Launch Vehicle: Atlas-D

Mercury-Atlas Launch Vehicle

The Mercury-Atlas launch vehicle was developed from the U.S. Air Force’s Atlas ballistic missile. It was used in the Mercury Program Earth orbital flights of astronauts John H. Glenn, Jr. (Frienship 7), Scott M. Carpenter (Aurora 7), Walter M. Schirra (Sigma 7), and L. Gordon Cooper, Jr. (Faith 7).

Launch Vehicle Specifications

  • Height (with spacecraft): 29 meters (95 feet)
  • Thrust: 165,000 kilograms (365,000 pounds)
  • Propellants: Liquid Oxygen and RP-1 (a form of Kerosene)

John Glenn

Astronaut John Glenn during pre-launch preparations.

Mercury Capsule MA-6 Friendship 7

Mercury “Friendship 7” on display in the Boeing Milestones of Flight Hall at the Museum in Washington, DC.

National Air and Space Museum, Smithsonian Institution / Eric Long

Inside Mercury “Friendship 7”

Interior of Mercury “Friendship 7” on display at the National Air and Space Museum.

National Air and Space Museum, Smithsonian Institution / Eric Long

John Glenn

Astronaut John H. Glenn Jr. is pictured aboard the MA-6/Friendship 7 capsule during the U.S. initial orbital flight.

S62-00303 (2-20-62) (ARCHIVAL PHOTO)

John Glenn Notebook

This notebook containing world maps and other data was carried by astronaut John Glenn Jr. during the flight of Friendship 7, the first U.S. orbital spaceflight carrying a human on February 20, 1962.

The Gemini Program

After Mercury, NASA introduced Gemini, an enlarged, redesigned spacecraft for two astronauts. Ten manned Gemini missions were flown from 1964 through 1966 to improve techniques of spacecraft control, rendezvous and docking, and extravehicular activity (spacewalking). One Gemini mission spent a record-breaking two weeks in space, time enough for a future crew to go to the Moon, explore, and return.

The Gemini had two major units. The reentry module held the crew cabin and heat shield. Behind it was the adapter, which consisted of two sections. The equipment section carried fuel, oxygen, and power supplies. The retrograde section carried retrorockets that slowed the spacecraft to make it fall out of orbit. Using small rockets on the adapter, the astronauts could not only change their orientation in space, but also their orbital path. Gemini was the first manned spacecraft that could alter its orbit during flight.

The adapter sections were discarded before reentry. The nose (rendezvous and recovery section) came off when the main parachute was deployed. The cabin section splashed down horizontally, with the two hatches on top.

Spacecraft Specifications

  • Length (in orbit): 5.7 m (18 ft 10 in)
  • Length (at landing): 2.74 m (9 ft)
  • Maximum diameter (adapter): 3.05 m (10 ft)
  • Diameter of heat shield: 2.26 m (7 ft 5 in)
  • Heat shield: Silicone-elastismer-filled, phenolic-impregnated fiberglass honeycomb
  • Spacecraft structure: Titanium (reentry module); magnesium and aluminum (adapter)
  • Reentry module shingles: René 41 (a nickel-steel alloy) and beryllium
  • Weight at launch (Gemini 7): 3,670 kg (8,074 lb)
  • Weight at landing: About 1,500 kg (3,300 lb)
  • Manufacturer: McDonnell Aircraft Corp.

The Gemini Heat Shield

A heat shield protected the Gemini spacecraft against the enormous heat generated by reentry into the atmosphere at more than 27,500 kilometers (17,000 miles) per hour. Like those of other early American and Soviet manned spacecraft, Gemini’s heat shield derived from ballistic-missile warhead technology. The dish-shaped shield created a shock wave in the atmosphere that held off most of the heat. The rest was dissipated by ablation—charring and evaporation—of the heat shield’s surface. Ablative shields were not reusable.

Gemini-Titan II Launch Vehicle

Used in the Gemini Program to boost the two-man Gemini spacecraft into Earth orbit. Ten manned missions were flown. The Gemini-Titan II was developed from the U.S. Air Force Titan II Intercontinental ballistic missile.

Launch Vehicle Specifications

  • Height (with spacecraft): 33 meters (108 feet)
  • Thrust at lift off: 193,500 kilograms (430,000 pounds)

Gemini 4: The First U.S. Spacewalk

American astronaut Edward H. White II was the pilot for the Gemini-Titan 4 space flight. He became the first American to perform an Extra Vehicular Activity (EVA, or “spacewalk”) from the Gemini IV spacecraft on June 3, 1965. He floated in zero gravity during the third revolution of the Gemini 4 spacecraft.

White is attached to the spacecraft by a 25-ft. umbilical line and a 23-ft. tether line, both wrapped in gold tape to form one cord. In his right hand White carries a Hand-Held Self-Maneuvering Unit (HHSMU). The visor of his helmet is gold plated to protect him from the unfiltered rays of the sun.

Gemini 7: Surviving 2 Weeks in Space

Launched into space aboard Gemini 7 on December 4, 1965, astronauts Frank Borman and James A. Lovell Jr. accomplished two of the central objectives of the Gemini program: rendezvous and long-duration space flight.

Their primary mission was to show that humans could live in weightlessness for 14 days, a space endurance record that would stand until 1970. Their spacecraft also served as the target vehicle for Gemini 6, piloted by Walter M. Schirra Jr. and Thomas P. Stafford, who carried out the world’s first space rendezvous. These two achievements were critical steps on the road to the Moon.

For Frank Borman and Jim Lovell, the flight was an endurance test. The cabin was very cramped—the size of the front half of a Volkswagen Beetle—and the two astronauts were the subject of numerous medical experiments.

Gemini 7’s primary mission was to demonstrate that astronauts could live in weightlessness without significant ill effects for 14 days, the longest duration anticipated for an Apollo lunar landing mission. Gemini 7 Astronauts Borman and Lovell later formed two-thirds of the Apollo 8 crew, the first to circle the Moon. Lovell also commanded Gemini 12 and the ill-fated Apollo 13 lunar landing mission.

Gemini 6: World’s First Space Rendezvous

Gemini 6 was actually launched after Gemini 7. It was supposed to take off on October 25, but the flight was cancelled after the unmanned rendezvous and docking target vehicle blew up. The mission was quickly changed to a rendezvous with Gemini 7.

Three days before Gemini 6’s successful launch on December 15, 1965, a heart-stopping shutdown of the Titan II launch vehicle’s engines occurred during the first lift-off attempt. Schirra and Stafford did not eject only because of their coolness under extreme pressure.

On December 15, 1965, Gemini 6, piloted by Wally Schirra and Tom Stafford, pulled within 0.3 meters (1 foot) of Gemini 7, piloted by Frank Borman and Jim Lovell. It was the first time in history that two vehicles had maneuvered to meet in space.

This photograph of the Gemini 7 spacecraft was taken from the hatch window of the Gemini 6 spacecraft during rendezvous and station-keeping maneuvers on December 15, 1965. The spacecraft were approximately nine feet apart, at an altitude of 160 miles.

Gemini 10 Checklists & Data Cards

Michael Collins carried these checklists during the Gemini 10 mission from July 18-21, 1966. The Systems Notebook had information about the Gemini spacecraft and mission protocol. The data cards were used as a checklist of procedures during the extravehicular activity (EVA) in Earth orbit. Procedures for experiments, as well as the results, were kept in the Experiment Log Book.

Gaganyaan project: Seven IAF pilots sent to Russia for India s first manned mission to space

Seven IAF pilots sent to Russia for India’s first manned mission to space

Gaganyaan is India’s manned space mission which the ISRO aims to launch by December 2021. The project aims at sending the astronauts to a lower orbit of the earth and the spacecraft will have a capsule with adequate supply of oxygen and other essential material and facilities for the astronauts. ISRO is working in tandem with the IAF for the mission.

The Indian Air Force has shortlisted 12 potential astronauts for India’s first manned space mission, the Gaganyaan project. Of them, seven pilots have been sent to Russia for training, the PTI quoted an IAF officer as saying.

The officer, speaking on condition of anonymity, told PTI that the rest of the selected people would be sent once the batch of seven returns from Russia.

“As many as 12 have been selected for the Gaganyaan project in the first level. This is a screening process. Of these, four will be finally selected,” the officer said.

“At the time of the launch of the project, one or two ‘Gagan Yatris’ will be selected for the Mission,” he added.

Gaganyaan is India’s manned space mission which the ISRO aims to launch by December 2021. The project aims at sending the astronautsto a lower orbit of the earth and the spacecraft will have a capsule with adequate supply of oxygen and other essential material and facilities for the Gagan Yatris, the officer explained.

The space agency is working in tandem with the IAF for the mission.

According to the officer, initially the cut-off age for the project was 30 but as the IAF pilots of that age group could not clear the test, the age bar was raised to 41.

Butola said the aero medical consultancy of crew module design, life support system, onboard health monitoring system and flight support system are yet to be accomplished.

“Some of the most advanced countries in the world have attempted human space programme and in the face of challenges they had to abandon it because they could not succeed,” he explained.

The ambitious Gaganyaan mission was announced by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his Independence Day speech in 2018.

Chief of Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal R K S Bhadauria, on Thursday said the screening process for the selection of crew for ISRO’s proposed humanspace flight programme-Gaganyaan-is being done professionally.

“The screening process is well underway and I thinkit is being done very professionally. And increasingly, the interaction with ISRO is leading to greater understanding of the screening itself,” he said.

The Air Chief Marshal was speaking at the inaugural session of the three-day 58th Indian annual conference of the Indian Society for Aerospace Medicine (ISAM) here.

Speaking about the role of IAF, Bhadauria said theteam coordinating with the Indian Space Research Organisation can look into the design aspect of the spacecraft such as the life support system, thedesign of the capsule and the contribution of this aviationmedicine division to make sure ISRO achieves the challenge it has taken up.

Addressing the gathering, Air Marshal M S Butola, director-general medical services (Air), said “The first level of the Gagan Yatri (astronauts) selection process and selection of IAF crew to undergo final astronaut selection and training in Russia is completed.”

He said the task assigned to them has been completed well in time.

SpaceX Is About to Launch a Historic Mission With Actual People on Board Crew Dragon

SpaceX Is About to Launch a Historic Mission With Actual People on Board Crew Dragon

SpaceX is poised to launch its first astronauts into space this spring: Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley.

Their flight on the company’s Crew Dragon spaceship will mark the first time an American spacecraft has carried NASA astronauts since the Space Shuttle program ended in 2011.

Behnken and Hurley’s liftoff is expected to launch a new era of US spaceflight, since it will allow NASA to stop relying on Russian launch systems to get astronauts into space. It will probably also make the two astronauts the first to ever fly a commercial spacecraft.

“Bob and I were lucky enough to be selected together,” Hurley told The Atlantic in September. “As we get closer to launch, things in the last year have actually been pretty hectic. We’ve been spending increasing amounts of time in California, because that’s where most of the work is being done for Dragon.”

In preparation, they have run through emergency procedures, undergone extensive training the Crew Dragon’s mechanisms, worn their new spacesuits, and met with SpaceX CEO Elon Musk.

“People to a degree think it’s pretty glamorous to be able to go into space, but it’s actually like a messy camping trip,” Hurley told Reuters in June.

Here’s how the astronauts were selected and how they’re preparing to fly Crew Dragon to the space station.

The selection

In 2018, NASA selected Behnken and Hurley to be the first astronauts to fly SpaceX’s new spaceship. They will probably be the first to fly any commercial spacecraft.

SpaceX developed its Crew Dragon spaceship as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew program, a competition that spurred private companies to develop new astronaut-ready spacecraft.

In total, NASA selected nine astronauts to conduct the first human test flights of the Crew Dragon and its Boeing counterpart, the CST-100 Starliner.

Musk expects to send Behnken and Hurley to the International Space Station on Crew Dragon’s first manned test flight – called Demo-2 – in April, May, or June.

That would be the first time an American spacecraft has launched astronauts since 2011, when the space shuttle program ended.

Behnken and Hurley have been working closely with SpaceX on the Crew Dragon’s development since 2015, so they’re well equipped to fly the spacecraft.

Both men started out as military pilots. Hurley spent 24 years as a test and fighter pilot in the Marine Corps, logging over 5,500 hours in more than 25 different aircraft. Behnken was an Air Force test pilot. He logged over 1,500 hours flying more than 25 aircraft.

NASA hired them both as astronauts in 2000, and they became friends when they worked together in the space shuttle program.

Behnken flew on two space shuttle missions, logging over 708 hours in space with a total 37 hours of spacewalks. Hurley piloted two space shuttles, including the very last one, spending a total of over 683 hours in space.

Since NASA’s final space shuttle flight, however, the agency has relied on Russia’s Soyuz system to ferry its astronauts to and from the International Space Station. But Russia has nearly quadrupled its prices over a decade. A single round-trip seat now costs NASA about $US85 million.

A Crew Dragon seat is expected to cost about $US55 million. (Though that doesn’t include the $US1.2 billion NASA spent on the new spacecraft’s development in hope of replacing Soyuz.)

Preparation exercises

Behnken and Hurley’s preparation for the first crewed flight involves intensive training exercises and dry runs of launch day procedures.

In total, the two astronauts have worked together for two decades. “Bob and I got pretty close. It’s just like anything else-you gravitate to certain people,” Hurley told The Atlantic. “We spent a whole bunch of time together, and I got to the point where I thought, ‘Hey, maybe this guy isn’t so bad.'”

In 2003, when the Space Shuttle Columbia broke apart on re-entry, killing its seven-member crew, Hurley and Behnken were stationed on the runway together.

“I’ve seen Doug’s behaviour at my wedding, I’ve seen Doug’s behaviour in an aeroplane, and we’ve worked together dealing with the aftermath of the worst thing you can imagine happening in our career field. I can predict his actions. He can predict mine,” Behnken said.

Behnken, Hurley, and other Commercial Crew astronauts have advised SpaceX as it develops the Crew Dragon’s inner workings, consulting on the designs of switches and control screens.

Commercial Crew astronaut Suni Williams previously told Business Insider that she and other astronauts had warned SpaceX and Boeing that early versions of their spaceships showed the crew too little on-screen information.

“Automation can help us, but then you do have to watch out,” Williams said. “We talked to the both partners about: How do I check this? I have a timeline in front of me – how do I know these things are happening? Where do I check? Where do I look? What’s my confirming cue?”

“We spend a couple of days every week somewhere in Florida or California, evaluating the final designs. We’re not the beneficiaries of a super-formal training program – it’s kind of being developed as we go,” Behnken told The Atlantic.

Emergency escape

Safety is the top priority, so Commercial Crew astronauts have practiced evacuating SpaceX’s launch pad in the unlikely event of danger before liftoff. That emergency escape requires the astronauts to load into baskets on a zipline-like wire. Once they zip to the ground, an armoured vehicle picks them up.

After that escape exercise, Behnken said: “Each time today when we headed down the crew access arm, I couldn’t help but think about what it will be like to strap into Dragon on launch day.”

The astronauts have also run through the process of being retrieved from the Crew Dragon capsule after it splashes down in the ocean.

They have even done a dress rehearsal with the new SpaceX spacesuits.

“NASA has not done a flight-test program for a spaceship since the space shuttle. So you’re talking late 70s, early 80s is the last time we kind of did this as an agency,” Hurley said in a 2018 NASA video.

“Some of it is kind of re-learning those techniques and those things that you need to make sure that you’re watching out for,” he added.

Both men have said they’re looking forward to trying out the new spacecraft and getting back up to the space station.

“When you get up there and look back at the Earth, I think there isn’t anybody who that hasn’t changed,” Behnken told The Atlantic. “It really does change you, and hopefully for the better.”

He added: “People ask us about commercialization of space, and I firmly believe that the more people we can get to go into space, the better off the planet’s going to be.”

This article was originally published by Business Insider.

More from Business Insider:

NASA aims for first manned SpaceX mission in first-quarter 2020

NASA aims for first manned SpaceX mission in first-quarter 2020

HAWTHORNE, Calif. (Reuters) – SpaceX’s new Crew Dragon astronaut capsule will be ready for its first manned flight into orbit in the first quarter of next year provided “everything goes according to plan” in upcoming tests, NASA chief Jim Bridenstine said on Thursday.

The pronouncement of a revised time frame signaled NASA believes SpaceX is getting the Crew Dragon project back on track following an explosion during a ground test in April and technical challenges with its re-entry parachute system.

Bridenstine said successful development of the capsule was key to achieving NASA’s top priority – the resumed “launching of American astronauts on American rockets from American soil” for the first time since the space shuttle program ended in 2011.

The NASA administrator spoke to reporters at the end of a visit to the SpaceX headquarters in Hawthorne, California, just outside Los Angeles, where chief executive Elon Musk led him on a tour of the sprawling manufacturing plant.

Their joint appearance by a giant glass-enclosed “clean room” where engineers were working on a Crew Dragon marked a show of unity following a rare public spat over delays in the project.

NASA and SpaceX had previously aimed to launch the Crew Dragon on an initial test flight carrying two astronauts to the International Space Station in 2019.

The revised time line hinges on a series of system tests that SpaceX hopes to conduct by year’s end, Bridenstine said.

These include a high-altitude test of an in-flight abort system designed to propel the crew capsule to safety in the event of a rocket failure on the way to orbit.

The schedule also includes at least 10 more mid-air “drop tests” to gauge the resilience and performance of parachutes used to slow the capsule’s descent into the ocean after it re-enters the atmosphere from space.


“If everything goes according to plan, it would be the first quarter of next year,” Bridenstine said when asked how soon he the capsule would be ready to fly astronauts into orbit. He was quick to add that the new time line could slip again.

“We are not going to take any undue risk,” he said, standing beside Musk and the two astronauts slated to fly aboard the Crew Dragon – Doug Hurley and Bob Benkoe.

Bridenstine also praised SpaceX for its “fail fast, then fix” approach to spacecraft development, an ethos he said that differed from the cultures of other NASA contractors.

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration is paying commercial launch companies SpaceX and Boeing Co ( BA.N ) $6.8 billion to build rocket-and-capsule systems enabling NASA to resume human space travel with U.S.-made hardware.

SpaceX has so far never flown humans into orbit, only cargo. But the company successfully launched an unpiloted Crew Dragon to the International Space Station in March.

Musk said overcoming problems with re-entry parachutes had proved especially challenging.

“It’s a pretty arduous engineering job to get the parachutes right,” Musk said, declaring that Crew Dragon’s parachutes will be at least twice as safe as those used during NASA’s Apollo moon missions.

He expected that “testing will be complete and hardware at the Cape (Canaveral) by the end of December.”

The top executive for Boeing’s rival Starliner program, John Mulholland, said on Wednesday that its own key test of an abort system was slated for Nov. 4, while its unpiloted orbital test flight was set for Dec. 17. Under that time frame, the first Starliner manned mission is all but certain to slip into 2020.

NASA is currently paying Russia about $80 million per seat for rides to the space station.

Bridenstine said the agency was “still buying seats” for ride-alongs aboard Russia’s Soyuz as an “insurance policy” against future delays in U.S. crew capsule development.

While providing few concrete details on their joint investigation into an explosion during a ground test of Crew Dragon’s abort thrusters in April, Musk said such setbacks were inevitable in rigorous testing of complex systems.

Bridenstine’s visit came after he and Musk had clashed over the past two weeks, with the NASA chief chiding Musk on Twitter for celebrating a milestone on SpaceX’s deep-space Starship rocket while the Crew Dragon project remained delayed.

Bridenstine sought to bury the hatchet on Thursday, saying he was merely “signaling” to SpaceX and other NASA contractors that “we need more realism built in to our development time frames.”

Reporting by Steve Gorman in Los Angeles; writing and additional reporting by Eric M. Johnson in Seattle; additional reporting by Joey Roulette in Washington; editing by Paul Tait, Rosalba O’Brien and Richard Pullin

China readies its new deep-space crew capsule for 1st test flight, Space

China readies its new deep-space crew capsule for 1st test flight

A Chinese next-generation spacecraft for taking astronauts to low Earth orbit and beyond has arrived at a coastal spaceport in preparation for a test flight.

The new spacecraft is designed boost China’s capabilities in sending humans into orbit, reduce costs through partial reusability, and allow astronauts to survive the radiation environment and higher-speed reentries of deep-space missions.

The as-yet-unnamed spacecraft is 8.8 meters long (28.9 feet) with a mass at liftoff of 21.6 metric tons (23.8 tons), according to the China Manned Space Agency. It will be capable of carrying six astronauts, or three astronauts and 500 kilograms (1,102 pounds) of cargo.

The crew module (top) and service module of the new Chinese crewed spacecraft. (Image credit: CAST)

The new spacecraft arrived at Wenchang Satellite Launch Center on Hainan island in the South China Sea on Monday (Jan. 20), and it is due to launch sometime in the next few months.

Like NASA’s Orion EFT-1 crewed spacecraft test in 2014, the spacecraft will be sent into a relatively high, elliptical orbit, reaching an apogee of 5,000 miles (8,000 kilometers) before reentry — far beyond that of China’s previous human spaceflight-related flights.

The flight will test the spacecraft’s performance in orbit, a lightweight heat-resistant coating for reentry, parachute systems and a new airbag-cushion-landing design. Systems such as life support will be absent from the spacecraft for the first flight.

The mission will be launched by the first Long March 5B rocket, a variant of the huge Long March 5, which had a dramatic and successful return-to-flight mission in December. The rocket components are due to join the new spacecraft at the Wenchang Satellite Launch Center in early February.

If the new rocket performs well, it can next be used for constructing a modular space station. The spacecraft will carry nearly 10 tons of propellant to make it similar in mass to launching a station module. However, the capabilities of the new spacecraft indicate that China is already looking beyond low Earth orbit to eventual missions to the moon — and potentially beyond.

It is not known when the new crewed spacecraft is expected to enter service. The test launch could come as early as April, based on launch-preparation times for previous Long March 5 rockets.

The Long March 5B will be capable of lifting the new crewed spacecraft to low Earth orbit (LEO). A new launcher would be required for missions into deep space, or rendezvous with another craft in LEO before heading to the moon.

China’s new crew capsule, which is being developed for future space station and moon missions. (Image credit: China Manned Space Agency)

China became the third country to independently launch astronauts in 2003 when Yang Liwei orbited Earth in the Shenzhou 5 spacecraft.

The roughly 8-metric-ton (8.8 ton) Shenzhou, which can carry three astronauts, has been used for all six of China’s crewed missions so far. It consists of three components: a return capsule and separate propulsion and orbital modules.

Like NASA’s Orion, the new spacecraft consists of two components: a crew module and service module.

A model of the core capsule for China’s next space station is on display at the Wenchang Satellite Launch Center. (Image credit: China Manned Space Agency)

In another upgrade over the Shenzhou, the new crew module will be partially reusable, while the spacecraft as a whole features a modular design that will allow it to be constructed to meet different mission demands.

“In the past, the thermal protection of Shenzhou spaceships were integrated with the metal structure inside, so the entire thermal protection structure could not be disassembled, and capsule was not usable after coming back to earth,” Yang Qing, chief designer of the new manned spacecraft of the China Academy of Space Technology, told CCTV.

“This time the heat protection on all our cabins has been turned into pieces, which is very convenient to disassemble.” Testing such reusability-related technologies is another goal of the upcoming launch.

“To ensure a sustainable development of the whole industry in the future, cost reduction is still a very critical factor, so being reusable is a better way for us to reduce the cost,” Yang said.

The research team will evaluate and analyze the state of the spacecraft after its return. After verifying the key technologies, it will move on to the development and functional verification of the entire system, and prepare for human spaceflight, according to CCTV.

Russia s early manned space flight projects (1945-1963)

First manned space flight

Origin of the Vostok spacecraft

Within Sergei Korolev’s OKB-1 design bureau, founded in 1946 exclusively as a missile development organization, all work on spacecraft was originally concentrated at Department 9 lead by Mikhail Tikhonravov. Tikhonravov’s team would be instrumental in the development and launch of the world’s first artificial satellite.

Assembly of early Vostok spacecraft at OKB-1 in Podlipki near Moscow. A capsule for drop tests can be seen at the center of the photo. The assembly of the instrument module is on the left.

Origin of the Vostok spacecraft

Active development of ballistic missiles in the USSR in the second half of the 1940s gave new impetus to the idea of rocket-propelled space flight first advanced by Tsiolkovsky, Goddard, Oberth and others earlier in the 20th century. After World War II, the German A-4 (V-2) rocket became a basis for the new effort to conquer space in the US and the USSR. One of the earliest Soviet concepts of sending a pilot into the stratosphere on the A-4-based rocket was concieved by Mikhail Tikhonravov from a top-secret NII-4 research institute tasked to support the Soviet missile development program. A veteran of the early Soviet rocket development effort in the 1930s, Tikhonravov proposed the VR-190 rocket designed to carry a single pilot on a suborbital trajectory.

Although VR-190 had never been built, a similar study was later initiated at the OKB-1 design bureau led by Sergei Korolev and responsible for the development and testing of the Soviet long-range ballistic missiles. Within the 9th department at OKB-1, a group led by Nikolai Belousov studied the possibility of launching a piloted rocket on a ballistic arc as high as 100 or 200 kilometers.

Belousov’s team could take advantage of much more advanced and powerful rockets, which were under development during the 1950s, such as R-3 or R-5. Engineers also made comparison between a vehicle which would “hop” into space on a ballistic trajectory and a true orbiting spacecraft. The suborbital flight, while requiring most attributes of a real space mission, would provide only 2-4 minutes of weightlessness in a 10-15-minute trip. However even a single-orbit flight would enable the pilot to be weightless for an hour and a half, making the scientific value of the mission much higher. Although suborbital vehicles could be launched on smaller rockets, they were eventually ruled out in favor of a true orbital spacecraft.

However as late as 1956, the orbital flight was apparently still considered in parallel with possible piloted launches of ballistic (suborbital) rockets. (84)

Vostok design

Gagarin’s descent module and key features of its interior, minus the ejection seat, as seen via the ejection hatch. Severe damage to the thermal protection layer visible at the top of the capsule was likely caused by the wind drag after the touchdown and before the parachute could deflate, not by the heat during the reentry.

The preliminary design for the future manned spacecraft was officially concluded on May 15, 1958, favoring an orbital vehicle. A three-stage rocket for unmanned lunar missions would be re-purposed for manned missions in Earth’s orbit. The lifting capabilities of the rocket allowed it to carry an almost five-ton spacecraft into low Earth orbit.

The final design of the Vostok spacecraft consisted of two main components: a descent module with the pilot cabin and the instrument module equipped with a braking engine.

As a purely experimental vehicle, Vostok had to safely carry a pilot in orbit and return him/her to Earth. The main flight control function was limited to orienting the spacecraft tail first for the firing of the braking engine prior to reentry into the atmosphere. The braking engine had to slow down the spacecraft by around 140 meters per second to ensure the safe return of the vehicle. Firing of the engine would be commanded by a programming timer (84), later known as PVU Granit.

Since the successful completion of the reentry maneuver meant life or death for the pilot and the braking engine could not be backed up by any other hardware, engineers decided to launch Vostok missions into a 180 by 235-kilometers orbit. At that altitude, the density of the upper atmosphere would be enough to slow down and send the spacecraft back to Earth roughly five days after launch, with a margin of error of 2.5 days. Vostok would have enough food, water, air and power onboard to support a 10-day mission.

Proposed Vostok modifications

Descent module of the Vostok spacecraft during assembly in Podlipki.

Along with the development of a regular version of the Vostok spacecraft, OKB-1 and its contractors studied alternative designs, particularly a descent module powered by a helicopter-like rotor. This design was particularly favored by Korolev. The key goal of the project was to have a complete control of the landing trajectory, ending dependency on winds during a parachute descent. The idea was never implemented.

Upon the conclusion of six manned flights of Vostok in 1963, new missions were under consideration. Orbital flights carrying animals to an altitude of 1,000-1,200 kilometers and lasting up to 10 days were planned, apparently to study the effects of radiation beyond low orbits shielded from space rays by the magnetic field of the Earth. There were also plans to equip the Vostok spacecraft with an additional solid-propellant motor which could serve as a backup for the main braking engine. This improvement would eliminate the self-imposed limit for an orbital altitude of Vostok missions in order to enable natural reentry of the spacecraft following main engine failure.

To ensure safe touchdown of the pilot inside Vostok instead of ejection in mid air, developers proposed to install a special landing engine on the descent capsule. The device would reduce the impact speed from 10 to 2 meters per second. Vostok’s ejection seat was still expected to stay onboard as an emergency feature. (84) Soft-landing engines did find their way into the design of the Voskhod spacecraft, however, their passengers would not have ejection seats due to mass limitations of the multi-seat incarnation of the spacecraft.

In preparation for the first manned orbital mission, four 1K prototypes of the Vostok spacecraft carried pairs of dogs each in 1960. Two of these missions failed killing four dogs. In March 1961, a pair of unmanned versions of the Vostok spacecraft designated 3KA carried a single dog each during final dress rehearsals of Gagarin’s upcoming flight. Both returned their passengers safely to Earth, clearing the way for the historic launch.

Cosmonaut candidates apparently filmed during medical tests in the fall of 1959. Left to right: Gagarin, Nelyubov, Titov, Nikolaev, Gorbatko, Khrunov, Leonov, Anikeev, Popovich, Shonin, Bykovsky.

On March 7, 1960, 12 pilots were officially enrolled into cosmonaut training and they were soon joined by eight others. The group included Ivan Anikeev, Pavel Belyaev, Valentin Bondarenko, Valery Bykovsky, Valentin Varlamov, Boris Volynov, Yuri Gagarin, Viktor Gorbatko, Dmitry Zaikin, Anatoly Kartashov, Vladimir Komarov, Aleksei Leonov, Grigory Nelyubov, Andriyan Nikolaev, Pavel Popovich, Mars Rafikov, Gherman Titov, Valentin Filatiev, Yevgeny Khrunov and Georgy Shonin.

In the summer of the same year, six pilots were selected among 20 trainees for in-depth preparations for upcoming Vostok missions. That group included Valery Bykovsky, Yuri Gagarin, Grigory Nelyubov, Andriyan Nikolaev, Pavel Popovich and Gherman Titov. Order No 176 of the Soviet Air Force commander formally endorsed this “group within a group” on October 11, 1960.

An overview of the early Russian manned space flight projects:

Gaganyaan project: Seven IAF pilots sent to Russia for India – s first manned mission to space

Seven IAF pilots sent to Russia for India’s first manned mission to space

Initially the cut-off age for the project was 30 but as the IAF pilots of that age group could not clear the test, the age bar was raised to 41.

The Indian Air Force has shortlisted 12 potential astronauts for India’s first manned space mission, the Gaganyaan project. Of them, seven pilots have been sent to Russia for training, the PTI quoted an IAF officer as saying.

The officer, speaking on condition of anonymity, told PTI that the rest of the selected people would be sent once the batch of seven returns from Russia.

“As many as 12 have been selected for the Gaganyaan project in the first level. This is a screening process. Of these, four will be finally selected,” the officer said.

“At the time of the launch of the project, one or two ‘Gagan Yatris’ will be selected for the Mission,” he added.

Gaganyaan is India’s manned space mission which the ISRO aims to launch by December 2021. The project aims at sending the astronautsto a lower orbit of the earth and the spacecraft will have a capsule with adequate supply of oxygen and other essential material and facilities for the Gagan Yatris, the officer explained.

The space agency is working in tandem with the IAF for the mission.

According to the officer, initially the cut-off age for the project was 30 but as the IAF pilots of that age group could not clear the test, the age bar was raised to 41.

Butola said the aero medical consultancy of crew module design, life support system, onboard health monitoring system and flight support system are yet to be accomplished.

“Some of the most advanced countries in the world have attempted human space programme and in the face of challenges they had to abandon it because they could not succeed,” he explained.

The ambitious Gaganyaan mission was announced by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his Independence Day speech in 2018.

Chief of Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal R K S Bhadauria, on Thursday said the screening process for the selection of crew for ISRO’s proposed humanspace flight programme-Gaganyaan-is being done professionally.

“The screening process is well underway and I thinkit is being done very professionally. And increasingly, the interaction with ISRO is leading to greater understanding of the screening itself,” he said.

The Air Chief Marshal was speaking at the inaugural session of the three-day 58th Indian annual conference of the Indian Society for Aerospace Medicine (ISAM) here.

Speaking about the role of IAF, Bhadauria said theteam coordinating with the Indian Space Research Organisation can look into the design aspect of the spacecraft such as the life support system, thedesign of the capsule and the contribution of this aviationmedicine division to make sure ISRO achieves the challenge it has taken up.

Addressing the gathering, Air Marshal M S Butola, director-general medical services (Air), said “The first level of the Gagan Yatri (astronauts) selection process and selection of IAF crew to undergo final astronaut selection and training in Russia is completed.”

He said the task assigned to them has been completed well in time.

PTI Inputs

Early Manned Spaceflight, First Spaceflight Information, Facts, News, Photos – National Geographic

Early Manned Spaceflight

NASA’s first human spaceflight program was Project Mercury. This ambitious undertaking was launched in 1958—about a year after the U.S.S.R. had signified the start of the Space Age with the successful launch of the satellite Sputnik 1.

The Mercury missions began the space race in earnest and drew upon the vast resources of the U.S. government and private sector—an estimated two million Americans contributed.

Testing the limits of the human body in space was an important objective of both space programs. To this end robots and animals were blasted aloft—most notably Mercury’s Ham the chimpanzee and the Soviet dog Laika. Though Ham returned to Earth and a comfortable retirement at the National Zoo in Washington, D.C., Laika died aboard Sputnik 2 in 1957.

First Humans in Space

Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin became the first person in space when he orbited the Earth in a Vostok spacecraft on April 12, 1961.

About a month later Alan Shepard, Jr. became the first American in space on May 5, 1961, when he was launched aboard Mercury-Redstone 3. His 15-minute flight, dubbed “Freedom 7,” was watched by some 45 million television viewers.

Between 1961 and 1963, six manned spacecraft flew as part of the Mercury project. Mercury pilots rode in wingless capsules, which detached from their launch rocket and fell back to Earth. The small craft were designed to withstand the tremendous temperatures of reentering the planet’s atmosphere and also survive a dramatic splashdown in the ocean.

Just a few weeks after Shepard’s flight, President John F. Kennedy announced his intent to put a man on the moon by the end of the decade. The challenge signaled the birth of NASA’s Gemini and Apollo missions.

Yet Mercury had more to accomplish. In February 1962 John Glenn became the first American to orbit the Earth on the Friendship 7 mission.

NASA’s Gemini program was designed to refine spacecraft so that they could perform rendezvous, docking, and other advanced maneuvers that would be necessary to land an astronaut on the moon and return to Earth.

As the missions of this era grew longer, astronauts became more adept at living within their spacecraft and even venturing outside it. Soviet cosmonaut Aleksei Leonov became the first person to exit an orbiting spacecraft in March 1965.

Moon Landing

The launch of the Apollo missions precipitated an American triumph in the space race and was a major first in space exploration.

On July 20, 1969, Neil Armstrong and Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin became the first people to reach the moon when they touched their lunar lander down in the Sea of Tranquility. Before the Apollo project ended in 1972, five other missions visited the moon.

The Apollo spacecraft included a command/service module, which could orbit the moon, and a lunar module that astronauts could detach, land on the moon, and then blast off to rejoin the orbiting command module for the return trip to Earth.

Later missions carried a lunar rover that could be driven across the satellite’s surface and saw astronauts spend as long as three days on the moon.

The Apollo missions achieved tremendous successes, but they came with a terrible cost. Astronauts Virgil “Gus” Grissom, Edward White, and Roger Chaffee were killed in a launchpad fire during training before the first Apollo flight.

When the Apollo missions ended in 1972, the first era of human space exploration closed.

Indian astronauts to begin training in Russia for country s first manned space mission

First manned space flight

Indian astronauts to begin training in Russia for country’s first manned space mission
by Staff Writers
New Delhi (Sputnik) Jan 23, 2020

Illustration of India’s planned manned space module Gaganyaan.

India’s space agency the ISRO (Indian Space Research Organisation) is gearing up for its week-long space mission worth $1.31 billion. Four astronauts have been shortlisted from the Indian Air Force after a series of tests conducted in India and Russia.

ISRO Chief K. Sivan said on Wednesday that four shortlisted astronauts would be sent to Russia for an 11-month training program by the end of January, in preparation for India’s first crewed space mission – ‘Gaganyaan’ – scheduled for January 2022.

Addressing the media in New Delhi, Sivan said so far; Astronaut Rakesh Sharma has been the only Indian to fly to Space, and that was in a Russian module. “But this time Indian astronauts will travel to space in an Indian module and from India.”

The ISRO, in a statement issued during the annual briefing, had stated that the shortlisted astronauts would undergo training in Russia for 11 months and return to India for module-specific training.

However, when asked whether a human-crewed mission to the moon was on the India space agency’s list, Sivan said: “Definitely, but not immediately.”

The spacecraft, which is supposed to carry the astronauts, is a 3.7-tonne capsule designed to maximise the safety and security of the crew.

To prevent any untoward incident, the ISRO will conduct two crewless missions and has set up a ‘Human Space Flight Centre’ in Bengaluru to implement the Gaganyaan project.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the Ganganyaan project last year during his Independence Day speech on 15 August, stating that the project will take off in the 75th year of India’s Independence. The country celebrated its 73rd independence day in 2019.


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